Skip to main content

How Shall I Tell the Dog?: and Other Final Musings


How Shall I Tell the Dog?: and Other Final Musings

Cancer is very serious business. Even the word itself conjures
up many images and thoughts, none of which are warm, fuzzy, or the
least bit pleasant. British humorist Miles Kington manages to
absorb his unexpected and definitely unwanted diagnosis with a
stiff upper lip that hints at a bit of a smile.

Miles, the writer, is always on the lookout for the next good
idea for his new book. First, he gets the urge to write another
book, then he comes up with the idea for the book itself. At
the age of 66 he is given a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, a
generally fatal cancer. He queries his oncologist, who thinks that
writing a personal journal about living with cancer would be good
therapy. Then he begins to brainstorm one final book, and all sorts
of ideas --- interesting, useful and a few downright bizarre ---
spill forth in many letters to his literary agent, Gill. The reader
is left to assume what Gill’s replies might be.

Miles decides that the book 1,000 PLACES TO SEE BEFORE YOU DIE
by Patricia Schultz needs a rewrite by someone like him who knows
he does not have time to see all those places. So why not come up
with a much shorter and more realistic list? How about a book of
what to do on the way, or once you get there? Surely just ticking
off a list of exotic places seen is not what travel should be

Though his elderly father-in-law will go down in history as the
man who did not assassinate Colonel Guaddafy, Miles believes that a
patient who has a terminal disease might be just the one to rid the
world of a truly evil person. What is there to lose? He
doesn’t ruminate upon this unusual thought too long before he
is off on another tangent. What about a book about Niagara
Falls written from the perspective of many people, some famous,
some not? What about a book about all the infrequently asked
questions about cancer? How interesting would that be? Surely not a
bestseller. If he’s going to cash in on this cancer thing, he
has to come up with a better idea.

Miles muses about creating a television program, a documentary
of sorts, about looking over and clearing out all the accumulated
paper clutter (which he refers to as “the great mess”)
before one shuffles off this mortal coil. Perhaps a book that
explains how to do all the things one wanted to learn to do but
never did get around to, like yodeling or whistling with two
fingers in one’s mouth or executing a graceful cartwheel.
Then there’s always a child’s book about cancer, a
board game about death…the possibilities seem endless.

Miles worries that his beloved dog, Berry, who will now surely
outlive his master, has absolutely no idea what is happening to
him. How does one explain death to a dog? What if Berry insists on
being taken for a walk at the very moment that Miles is drawing his
last breath?

Readers of HOW SHALL I TELL THE DOG? will gain a true
appreciation of the author’s wit, courage and grace. Although
living with cancer will never, ever be funny, Miles Kington has
taught his audience that it is possible to enjoy some lighthearted
moments along the way.

Reviewed by Carole Turner on January 22, 2011

How Shall I Tell the Dog?: and Other Final Musings
by Miles Kington

  • Publication Date: July 7, 2009
  • Genres: Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Newmarket Press
  • ISBN-10: 155704841X
  • ISBN-13: 9781557048417